Cattle, Cowpastures and Country

Cattle, Cowpastures and Country
Image by Dhruv Mehra via

When cattle escaped the British colony at Warrane/Sydney Cove, they made their way up river courses where within a few decades they established a large herd in what became known as ‘Cowpastures’, living under the ‘protection’ of the Colonial authorities they had evaded. The ongoing colonisation of Australia by non-Indigenous settlers has always been a human-animal practice. With the First Fleet came cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, cats, dogs, chickens, (with rats, mice and viruses brought over too). Bruce Pascoe argues that the introduction of these animals constituted a distinct form of colonial violence, rather than a mere by-product of colonization: ‘No better device, short of murder, could ensure the weakening of the enemy’ (18). It was not simply an ecological disruption, it was also a disruption to working knowledge of Country, a complex assemblage of ‘ecological, environmental and zoological knowledge’ that made it possible for ‘Indigenous people to survive and thrive over the millennia’ (Olsen and Russell, 2019, 8). This disruption did not end with the colonial period, rather it continues and, we suggest, takes up specific forms highly dependant on place and the kinds of animals involved. Our broader project shifts and broadens a common framing of conflict over introduced animals from a two-sided contest (Indigenous and Settler Coloniser) to one that include animals more actively, as subjects with their own interests. This is in recognition of the fact that animals are not props, extensions, metaphors, pets or allies of human communities and national interests despite their ‘domestication’ which, (to borrow from Ghassan Hage), is a process of ‘struggle’ (2017, 91) that involves both domination and resistance.

Fiona Probyn-Rapsey is Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry at the University of Wollongong, Australia. She is currently CI on an Australian Research Council project (2021-2024) with Professor Lynette Russell (ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellow 2020-2025, Monash Indigenous Studies Centre), examining the cultural impacts of introduced animals in Australia. This paper is part of that project

Zoom Link:
Meeting ID: 812 1179 0732
Password: 968025

Date & time

Mon 06 Mar 2023, 3–4pm


Rm 3.369 HC Coombs Building ANU


Professor Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, University of Wollongong


Natasha Fijn


Updated:  22 February 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications